Q: There is a tree at the edge of our property in our subdivision dropping several limbs a day. The limbs look like they have been cut or sawed off. We have watched for squirrels but have not seen any. We are concerned that this may be a worm or bug causing this damage and that any trees in the area may be subject to the same thing. Should we be worried, and if so, what should we do?
R. B. of Belleville
A: The trouble that you have, is caused by a Twig girdler (Oncideres cingulata). This insect belongs to the family of long-horned beetles. The name long-horned beetles comes from the characteristic that these beetles have two antennae, which have 11 segments each and are longer than the body of the insect. The body of these beetles is one-half to 5/8 of an inch long; they are grayish-brown with a broad ashy-gray stripe across the wing covers.
The female cuts a circular ring into the bark of the smaller branches and then lays eggs which are 3/32 of an inch in length beyond the cut area. She deposits these in rotten spots in the bark or makes small holes to deposit the other eggs. The female can lay 50 to 200 eggs. She will allow a small center part of the stem to remain which will be broken off by winds in late summer and fall.
The favorite trees that this insect prefers is pecan, hickory, and persimmon but elm, hackberry, sourwood, honeylocust, dogwood and fruit trees will also be attacked. The smaller and younger trees become deformed by this pruning. They will have to be trained to a single leader branch for good strong growth. Older trees are not bothered too much with this branch damage.
You need to collect all the fallen small branches and burn them to destroy the eggs. Insecticides are not effective on these insects.
Usually with rabbits and squirrels, there is a slight curve to the cut on the branches, and its cut straight through with no jagged edges.
Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Department, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Things to do this time of year
- Finish planting the spring flowering bulbs.
- With young trees apply a tree wrap to prevent frost cracks from developing on the smooth bark of young trees. This usually happens on the south and west sides of the tree from the heat of the sun on clear days which cases expansion of the bark and then the colder nights causing shrinking of the bark. This constant expanding and shrinking of the bark will form cracks in the bark. Flexible tree wrap will prevent this from happening.
- Rake up the leaves to prevent smothering the grass during the winter. They can be turned into valuable compost by turning them about once a month with a little soil added.
- If you have young trees you may also want to have some hardware cloth placed around the base of the tree to prevent girdling. This can happen with a lot of winter snow.
- Remove the old vegetable plants and weeds from the beds and get a soil test to see what should be added.